In the workers’ compensation industry, large insurance companies tend to have a policy to hire only national interpreting agencies. These agencies typically contract out to the cheapest unqualified bilingual labor they can find. The agencies do this so that they can reduce expenses and increase profit. The result is an industry rife with untrained, unskilled and unethical so-called interpreters. The result is a liability when errors occur in interpretation, biased interpreters directing patients to lawyers, and huge misunderstandings. All of this can create costly exposure to the insurance company. Also, language agencies are not inexpensive.
What drives me crazy about this? At least in my little corner of the world, I can offer a solution. Every interpreter hired is a quality interpreter and receives regular training. We periodically assess skill levels and review ethical conduct. Although my company isn’t the lowest price, we probably aren’t as expensive as the national agencies either. I know it’s not the money, so why is it so hard for us to break through to the big insurance companies? What motivates them? Don’t they want these issues resolved? Is the convenience of just calling one national company worth all the problems? What am I missing here?
Many case managers working in the trenches recount what bothers them about bad interpreters. In conversation with adjusters, I have discovered some of their concerns. The issues I believe are at a higher corporate level, and they obviously have a need or concern I have been unable to uncover.